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Alexandra Greenwald honored by Utah Museums Association for excellence in collections

Reposted from the Natural History Museum of Utah. 

Last month at the Utah Museums Association (UMA) annual conference, Dr. Alexandra Greenwald was presented with the UMA’s Award for Excellence in Collections for her work on the Natural History Museum of Utah’s Native Voices Initiative. Greenwald, curator of ethnography at NHMU and assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Utah, was acknowledged by the UMA board at the awards dinner on Sept. 20 at the Uintah Conference Center in Vernal, Utah.

“It’s an honor to receive recognition from the UMA,” Greenwald said. “This work would not have been possible without the time and trust of Utah Native communities and the efforts of our anthropology team at NHMU, including collections managers, graduate students, and our collections digitization coordinator.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Alexandra Greenwald

L-R Olivera Masters (graduate student), Dr. Alexandra Greenwald, Blanca Yagüe (graduate student), Jimmy Yawakia (Zuni consultant), Hayley Kievman (graduate student), Ishmael Medina (graduate student), and Megan Mangum (anthropology collections assistant)

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Specifically, Dr. Greenwald received the Award for Excellence in recognition of her work identifying, engaging, and compensating members of Utah’s tribes to consult with NHMU about Indigenous objects in the collections. Through these recorded interviews, the tribal member consultants provided insights into manufacturing methods, function, material, symbolic and cultural significance; respectful handling, storage, and display protocols; and personal stories and tribal language—including details previously unrecorded by collectors in the NHMU’s and other museums’ histories. As a result, Greenwald and her team improved NHMU’s storage and display protocols and object records and intend to share the massive collection of video recordings of tribal stories, perspectives, and language with relevant tribes, and, as appropriate, with the public.

Just before presenting the Excellence in Collections award, UMA Board Chair Diana Call said of Greenwald, “Through high ethical standards when consulting tribal members and curating their objects, Dr. Greenwald is working to heal the deep history of distrust resulting from many museums’ unfortunate histories of unethical acquisition and handling of Indigenous objects. Additionally, Dr. Greenwald is using National Endowment of the Humanities funds to financially support graduate student assistants, several of whom are from historically underrepresented groups in the fields of anthropology and museum work.”


Land acknowledgement  

We acknowledge that the land occupied by the Natural History Museum of Utah, which is named for the Ute Tribe, is the traditional and ancestral homeland of the Shoshone, Paiute, Goshute, and Ute Tribes. The University of Utah recognizes and respects the enduring relationship that exists between many Indigenous Peoples and their traditional homelands. We respect the sovereign relationship between tribes, states, and the federal government, and we affirm the University of Utah’s commitment to a partnership with Native Nations and Urban Indian communities through research, education, and community outreach activities.

About the Natural History of Utah 

The Natural History Museum of Utah is one of the leading scientific research and cultural institutions in the country. Established in 1963, the museum’s 10 permanent exhibitions are anchored by its state-of-the-art collections and research facilities containing nearly 2 million objects. These collections are used in studies on geological, biological, and cultural diversity, and the history of living systems and human cultures within the Utah region. The museum hosts approximately 300,000 general visitors a year and provides one of the most spectacular private event settings in the Salt Lake City area. NHMU also broadens the reach of its mission through a variety of science-based outreach programs to communities and schools throughout Utah, reaching every school district in the state every other year.